Edited by Beth
Reality did not give Si Nan a chance to hesitate. A few minutes later, the SUV slowly moved, driving out of the petrol kiosk.
The last shred of Si Nan’s rationality as a warrior won over his hunger. He did not immediately choose to move ahead, but first retreated a few steps and hid himself, watching the SUV make a turn and slowly move towards the main street.
What were they going to do?
Si Nan surveyed the surroundings. Near him was a mess of cars and scooters that had been involved in a collision, the scene horrible and tragic. Other than that, there were no other transport options available that could be seen, where not even a single undamaged bicycle could be found.
The SUV gradually grew further away, almost out of Si Nan’s sight. Gritting his teeth, Si Nan sprinted after it.
“There’s someone following us.” Inside the SUV, the driver murmured, glancing at the rearview mirror.
The blonde, blue-eyed female Alpha seated next to him was currently studying her fingers. Hearing that, she immediately looked up. However, she only saw a horde of zombies slowly chasing after them, only to be left in the dust. “Where? Who?”
“I didn’t manage to see clearly, they hid too quickly.”
The vehicle jolted slightly as the car made its way forward, but Romuller did not say a word.
“It might be a survivor,” the female Alpha pondered. “Drive a little faster, Abel, and lose him. We still have to search another base of survivors.”
Abel stepped on the gas. The bumper guard at the front of the car savagely crashed through a few of the living dead, speeding away in the dust and smoke.
The city had turned into a paradise for the zombies, and every building along the streets, reinforced with concrete, had become enormous coffins, their roots deep in the grounds, and reaching high into the sky. Gusts of icy winds travelled through the bleak roads, where the bus stops, the supermarkets and the schools were all empty. Trash and plastic bags danced and whirled across the dirt and dust, only to be trampled underneath the feet of the zombies.
The SUV made its way into a small community hub. In the side mirror, the trees along the wall trembled imperceptibly.
“They’re still following us,” Abel said.
This time, the female Alpha too had noticed it, and she became more vigilant. “Could there be a large number of them?”
She turned to look at her superior. In the backseat, Romuller finally stopped polishing his dagger. “There’s only one.”
He did not look up, but said indifferently, “Drive a little slower. Find somewhere to stop in front, and see what sort of person it is.”
His heart beating furiously in an unruly manner within his chest, Si Nan panted, feeling cold sweat drip down his temples. If he were to continue like this, he would soon become dehydrated.
Should he give up?
Or should he think of a way to move ahead of the vehicle, trying his luck to seek aid?
Si Nan’s strong instincts of vigilance made him shy away from the latter option. However, he had already been chasing them for a long period of time, and the great amount of energy he had already spent made him not want to give up so easily. Just as he was caught in the middle of these two options, the SUV in front suddenly shifted, turning off from the streets into a long alley lined with terraces.
Si Nan did a short run up, leaping from the wall to the tree top, then from there, he jumped to a rooftop. Swiftly running across the roofs of the terraces, he was like a nimble and light footed feline creature, silently coming to a stop at the edge of a roof.
He saw the SUV stop in front of a house. The driver got out and opened the trunk, lifting out half a carton of mineral water and heading towards the house. It looked as though this was their temporary stronghold.
Si Nan lay down on top of the roof. From up above, he gazed at the items within the trunk, instantly freezing — there were so many!
Boxes and boxes of ship biscuits, canned meat, dehydrated fruits, high-protein provisions, all sorts of energy drinks, winter wear and woollen blankets, equipment to start fires and generate electricity…
Si Nan gulped. He carefully observed the surroundings, quickly designing a path of retrieval and escape, and silently chanted — I’m only going to steal a can.
Just one, enough to let me survive until I can reach the heliport at the edge of the city.
After making his decision, Si Nan silently leapt down from the roof. Like a vigilant and wary leopard, he did not make a sound when he landed on the ground. Making his way to the trunk, he reached a hand out towards a can of luncheon meat.
— Right at this moment, his nerves buzzed, and he turned his head.
The blade of a knife slid past his face!
Si Nan wrenched himself around, and the quick peek he had of the face belonging to his sneak attacker stunned him a little — the other party was a strong, caucasian female Alpha, and she was rather good looking.
However, for some reason, the moment he saw this female Alpha, a warning bell rang loudly in his head. A feeling of dread mixed with disgust welled up within him, and it seemed as though he had seen her somewhere before.
The female Alpha froze too. Reflexively, she spoke to him in English. “Y-you… Why…”
In that thousandth of a second while she was dazed, Si Nan decisively withdrew. Even the can that he was about to obtain was abandoned, and he immediately ran a few metres away.
“Halt!” The female Alpha shouted. That muscular driver from before thundered out from the house, raising his gun and started to fire!
Si Nan yelled angrily, “All I wanted was some food!”
Before his voice could fade away, he immediately tumbled across the ground, avoiding the series of bullets. He heard the female Alpha shouting at the driver about something, and the two people ran over after that.
Any other time, even if the other party had guns, Si Nan would not be very worried about being attacked simultaneously by two Alphas. However, right now, he was not in the best condition. The fatigue from his fever and the dehydration was taking over his body, and under the current circumstance where the other party was clearly out to kill, it was not worth taking such a huge risk to obtain just a little food.
With a swing of his arm, Si Nan blocked a swift kick from the driver, the impact forcing him back a few steps. Bending over lithely, he avoided the dagger thrown by the female Alpha. The blade whistled past him, plunging straight into the wall behind. Si Nan again turned, dodging another powerful blow from the driver, so strong that it seemed as though it could blast through a mountain. He then yanked the dagger out and scaled the wall.
The female Alpha shouted something in English. At the last moment, Si Nan caught what she was saying. “—change to a tranquiliser!”
A twitch of his brow, and Si Nan immediately jumped up instantly from where he stood. Grabbing onto the eaves of the roof, he felt his leg turning numb.
A tranquilising dart had grazed his skin.
Fuck! Si Nan silently cursed. He bit the tip of his tongue savagely, using the pain to maintain a shred of alertness through the effects of the sedative which was taking over him. Swaying, he took a few steps along the eaves, only to discover that there was actually someone lying in wait in front!
This time it was a caucasian male, over the age of thirty, and he was standing up slowly on the rooftop.
Si Nan had no extra energy to wonder why the expression of the man was so strange, and why his actions were so slow. That man looked as though he was in a dream, like something would be broken if he were to touch anything. Right now, all Si Nan wanted was to quickly leave this group of Alphas behind. He would rather return to the zombie horde, searching through the supermarkets and shops. Even if all he had to eat were broken bits of rice and grains, he would rather do that than get any closer to those people at all.
“… Noah,” Romuller called out quietly.
Si Nan ran, but Romuller quickly moved to stop him. The instant when the two people connected, Si Nan shifted on the spot. Romuller didn’t see what he did at all, only feeling a slight breeze brush past his arm.
— This speed was truly nimble, Romuller thought.
A familiar nimbleness that he had already witnessed for himself countless times before.
Romuller narrowed his eyes. Lightning quick, he swept out with his leg. There was no way Si Nan would be able to dodge it, and at the same time, Romuller reached out, about to grab his neck—
However, right then, it was as though Si Nan was aided by the heavens. With a crisp slap, he caught Romuller’s arm, spinning himself around it.
Romuller quickly realised what he was about to do, and surprised, he paused.
In the next instant, a blade was pressed to his throat. Si Nan was concealed entirely behind him, facing the female Alpha and driver who had caught up, shouting, “Stop there!”
The two people froze at the same time. They exchanged a look with Romuller, and the atmosphere became very tense.
Romuller shook his head very slightly, stopping his two subordinates from moving forward. “Noah.”
“…” Si Nan was holding the dagger in a reverse grip with his right hand, pressing it against Romuller’s throat and forcing him to retreat with him, step by step. “Who are you?”
“You won’t be able to run anymore,” Romuller said.
Si Nan blinked repeatedly, forcing himself to remain conscious despite the gradually increasing effects of the sedative weighing down on him. He did not notice the complexity of the tone behind those words, how they felt as though the person speaking was unable to put his feelings into words.
“You won’t be able to run anymore,” Romuller again repeated. He sounded as though he was speaking to himself, as though he was swearing an oath to himself.
Si Nan’s dagger was right on his throat, and he said hoarsely, “Shut up! Who are you people? What are you doing here?”
Romuller said, “Your temperature is very high… You have a fever.”
The tiles under his feet suddenly shattered. Si Nan’s legs buckled. His calf, which had been grazed by the tranquiliser dart, had finally turned completely numb. His leg was no longer able to bear his weight, and in extreme dizziness, he stumbled.
All I wanted was to steal a can to eat… Si Nan thought groggily.
As expected, one should never do such sneaky and thieving things.
Si Nan’s hand, which had been holding the dagger against Romuller, relaxed a little and it seemed he wanted to use what little was left of his energy to escape alone. However, he had overestimated his resistance towards the tranquiliser, and a few seconds later, he staggered, falling. Before his knees could land on the ground, he was caught by two arms wrapping around him.
“…” Si Nan mumbled a curse, but it could not be heard clearly. Next, his body turned limp.
Under the effects of the sedative, temporarily, he had finally entered a sleep that had no hunger, regret and disappointment.
“His systolic blood pressure is 79, diastolic 40, temperature is 39.5°C.”
“Give him an injection of nutrients.”
The door to one of the terraces opened, and the chilling afternoon breeze roared through. The female Alpha and the driver both looked up, only to see Romuller crossing the threshold, signalling at them expressionless.
The signal was for them to get out.
The two subordinates stood up with tacit understanding, leaving the room.
The door was once again closed. Romuller walked to the bed, gazing at his prey that he had just caught from above.
The house, facing north, was against the sun. In the gloomy and snowy winter, it seemed even darker and wetter. The bed was narrow and low, and the prey should not feel very comfortable in it. Romuller’s eyes fell between his brows, and as expected, there was a tiny wrinkle there, as though the prey was very, very unhappy despite being unconscious.
However, as he lay there, unaware of everything, it seemed as though his body was enveloped in a soft and ethereal light, giving an extraordinarily charming air to the plain and dilapidated room, as well as the old and narrow windows.
This was not the first time Romuller had this feeling. He exhaled, finally sitting down by the bedside, bending his neck and carefully studying the familiar face in front of him. Again, he confirmed where that gleam came from — it was too pale.
Just like a beautiful, snow white slab of marble that had been polished over and over again, with the baptism of time and age, it still remained as smooth and bright as new. In a world that was ageing and changing, it still gave off an innocent and bitingly cold luster.
Why? He thought mockingly, this was clearly a monster.
His mother was a slut, who after getting married and giving birth, still enthralled his father so powerfully to the point where he was infatuated with her. He too was a reformed monster, who had been born with abilities beyond what was normal or common.
Romuller reached out slowly, but his hand never made contact. With a distance the width of a finger, he drew his fingers across Si Nan’s unconscious face.
He could still remember, when he was very young, he had once sat in the garden filled with rage and jealousy, waiting for the car driving “that woman” to go past. He wanted to see what that face, despite the passage of time and basically unforgettable to his father, looked like. He had already forgotten the exact shape and appearance of that woman’s facial features, but the moment he saw it for himself, that astounding charm, a twisted disgust was born right there and then, deeply engraved within his heart.
That was a beauty that symbolised an inauspicious attraction, and a premonition of a tragic fate.
As for this younger brother in name only that appeared later, it was exactly the same.
At first, he had thought about murdering this weak child more than once — in the gorgeous and luxurious manor, achieving this goal was actually an easy feat. However, during one dark night, with a servant covering for him, he slipped into Noah’s bedroom and watched this adopted brother of his. Just as he was deliberating over whether he should choke him to death or strangle him, he suddenly seemed to notice a light that was difficult to see coming from him.
Just like warm water flowing past porcelain, it exuded an intriguing tenderness and softness.
Perhaps it was the scattered light from the fountain in the garden, or it was an illusion caused by the cold moonlight.
— That was a monster, he told himself.
He decided that he would personally strangle this little monster to death himself. He placed his hands on the other’s thin neck, but Noah awoke with alarm. He started to struggle, to scream, and in the fight, sounds of collisions were heard. The housekeeper and the other servants were woken up, and his father rushed over, putting an end to the murder attempt.
That was an incident that happened when he was eleven, and Noah was six.
From that day onwards, he had never been able to come close to an unguarded Noah deep in sleep, like how he was like today. As long as he came close, Noah would wake up, as though the murder attempt of a child many years past had left a deep imprint in his subconscious. Even if he was dreaming, any disturbance was enough to alert his sensitive nerves.
Finally, Romuller’s finger descended, brushing against the tightly shut eyes.
Those eyelashes were so dense and dark, like the feathers of a crow. However, calluses caused by frequent usage of guns would not allow them to feel something so slight and imperceptible.
Still, Romuller’s breath caught a little, and he slowly leant down.
Where there was less than two inches before their breaths would mingle, Si Nan abruptly opened his eyes.
Romuller froze. Their eyes held for a few seconds, then Romuller smiled, sitting up straight. “Noah.”
The effects of the sedative were still coursing through Si Nan’s body. Si Nan’s unfocused eyes gradually sharpened as he looked at Romuller, a clear and unconcealed vigilance appearing in them. “You’re…”
“Do you remember who I am?” Romuller studied his expression. “Oh, seems like there was a side effect, after all.”
Si Nan was a little dazed. His fever had yet to recede, and his chest heaved in discomfort.
“Just now, when I saw you lying here, I remember that year when you just entered the secret military base in Florida…” Romuller seemed not to be bothered that the other party could not understand, and gave a short laugh, uncaring about anything else. “At that time, I had been there for a number of years already, and one night, on a whim, I went to your room to take a look while making my rounds of the dormitory.”
“You were sleeping so soundly, even snoring a little. However, when I drew closer to your bed, and had yet to even place my foot down firmly, you woke up suddenly. It seemed as though that at any moment, you were on guard against me sneaking in, that I would do you harm.”
“…” Si Nan’s dry throat finally managed to make a sound. “I don’t know… what you’re talking about…”
“It’s fine,” Romuller said, “in any case, it has already been so many years, and I just wanted to let you know. That night, I didn’t come to murder you.”
He seemed to find it very interesting, and started chuckling. However, this expression of friendliness that was normal for others, on his dignified face, inexplicably made Si Nan feel a prickle of disgust.
Unconsciously, he shifted away in his bed, and his protruding carpal bone in his wrist was caught in a handcuff.
Romuller did not mind this action of his.
Romuller picked up a jar of maple syrup from the bedside, slowly opening the lid. Under Si Nan’s abrupt attention, he pulled out a spoonful of golden, sticky syrup. “You know why you fell sick?”
“Because you don’t have enough sugar. Your reformed body requires a large amount of sugar, if not it will quickly weaken. Both your metabolism and respiration will be affected, and if severe, you might… you might even die.”
“During this period of time, whether you had been hiding alone, or with others,” Romuller gave a mocking smile, “the other party clearly did not provide you even the most basic care.”
Si Nan said hoarsely, “… They will come looking for me.”
Romuller seemed to have heard a joke. “Oh? Back to the city teeming with a million zombies just to look for you?”
It was as though Si Nan had been savagely stabbed, and he fell silent.
Romuller put the jar of maple syrup down, his right hand steadily raising that sweetly scented spoonful, and his left thumb lightly massaged Si Nan’s temple. “Noah.”
Si Nan did not make a sound.
“Kiss me. Kiss me just once. Just like how you kissed that special forces soldier, that Zhou fellow, that year.” Romuller even used a somewhat warm voice to tempt him. “Do it, and this entire jar will be yours, alright?”
A slight look of surprise appeared between Si Nan’s brows, as though he had heard something that had made him confused — however, he quickly glanced at Romuller, disgust evident in his eyes. Pressing his dry and cracked thin lips together, he swiftly turned his head away, facing the wall within and shut his eyes.
There was not an ounce of hesitation or indecision.
Romuller seemed to have already anticipated this. Not only did he not fly into rage, his smile deepened further. “Good… Very good.”
He casually threw away the spoonful of maple syrup, reaching back and pulling out a gleaming, silver suitcase. Opening it, he took out some instruments and cables, wrapping two wires of red and blue around Si Nan’s handcuffed wrists that had no way of struggling.
Si Nan seemed to feel something. His eyes flew open, and his body jerked up!
— The electroshock device!
In that moment, the confused details of the dream all came back to him. That blond hair, blue-eyed, hateful young man in that laboratory, merged together with the face right in front of him. They were the same person!
Romuller held Si Nan’s throat with one head, firmly pressing him back onto the bed. From above, he looked at Si Nan’s eyes that were extraordinarily bright due to his hatred, and asked, “Where’s the freezer you carried with you after the crash?”
Si Nan did not know what he was talking about at all. He pressed his lips together firmly.
“Where is it?”
There was still no response.
“Right from the start, I knew…” Romuller nodded slowly, inhaling with a self-mocking expression, “as expected, sentimentality does not suit you.”
Just as he finished speaking, he gritted his teeth, and decisively pressed a button on the electroshock device.